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The Wall and the Garden

The Wall and the Garden: Selected Massachusetts Election Sermons, 1670-1775

edited by A. W. PLUMSTEAD
Copyright Date: 1968
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Wall and the Garden
    Book Description:

    The election day sermon in colonial New England was an annual, formal address by a minister of the gospel to the newly assembled legislature of the colony. The tradition began in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1634, and it continued, in Boston, for 250 years. In this volume, Professor Plumstead presents a collection of nine of the Massachusetts election sermons, chosen from among the surviving Massachusetts sermons which were printed between 1661 and 1775. They are not chosen as representative but, rather, as the best, judged on a basis of literary excellence and ideas and points of style relevant to later developments in American literature and history. There are changes in style and theme in the 105 years between the first and the last selection, and, in his brief introduction to each of the sermons, the editor discusses these changes and the sermon’s relationship to the tradition as a whole. In a general introduction, Professor Plumstead provides background information about the history and significance of the election sermons. As he makes clear, the election sermon tradition offers a vantage point for seeing both continuity and change in colonial intellectual history. The sermons in this collection will complement colonial studies by bringing the reader close to the spirit of the times. The title of the volume, The Wall and the Garden, derives from the frequent use by colonial preachers of the metaphors of the garden and the wall to describe the colonies and their spiritual enemies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6407-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-37)

    There were moments of superb oratory in early Massachusetts. The charmed listeners to Arthur Dimmesdale’s election sermon inThe Scarlet Letterhad their living counterparts in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Massachusetts. The sermon can be a work of art. A didactic genre, it has aesthetic possibilities and is allied to drama, as the sermons of Chaucer’s Pardoner, Melville’s Father Mapple, John Donne, and Jeremy Taylor show. American literature has always been strong in oratory. From Cotton Mather to William Ellery Channing, from Emerson and Thoreau to Mark Twain, from Lincoln to John F. Kennedy, Americans in frontier halls, battlefields, pulpits, and...

    (pp. 38-44)

    The editorial principles for this edition have been formed in a desire to produce a normalized text for the general reader which will also be acceptable and useful to scholars.

    Copy Text. Establishing copy text for these sermons has been a relatively easy matter. I have not made an exhaustive search for the manuscripts; a check of places where one might expect to find them resulted in some delightful visits but no texts.¹ Copy text has been, then, the first—and in almost every instance the only—edition, printed as a pamphlet shortly after the sermon’s delivery. Aside from printers’...

  5. I Errand into the Wilderness 1670
    (pp. 45-78)

    Samuel Danforth’sErrand into the Wildernessis the seventh printed election sermon to have survived between 1634 and 1670.¹ Although the evidence is sketchy because of the paucity of early texts, it appears that by 1670 there were two general topics already established in the tradition. There were sermons on political theory concerned with such ideas as the nature of the good ruler, the meaning of liberty, the Biblical source of political ideas and types of government, and the proper relationships between Governor, Assistants, and Deputies. Jonathan Mitchel’sNehemiah on the Wall, 1667, is an example. A heroic Old Testament...

  6. II The Only Sure Way 1682
    (pp. 79-106)

    Samuel Danforth’sErrand into the Wildernessmay have started something. There followed a ten-year period of errand sermons with heavy emphasis on the apostasy theme. Thomas Shepard’sEye-Salvein 1672 and Urian Oakes’New England Pleaded With, 1673, are the most labored and elaborate errand sermons until Thomas Prince’s performance hi 1730. (Prince’s, however, is a better sermon, stylistically.) Taken together, the sermons of Danforth, Shepard, and Oakes represent the apogee of the errand type. The apostasy of New England would not again get such a concentrated going over. These three sermons must have made a great impression. Shepard’s sermon...

  7. III The Way to Prosperity 1689
    (pp. 107-140)

    The events which led up to Cotton Mather’s sermon,The Way to Prosperity, preached in Boston on Thursday, May 23, 1689, to “as much of New England . . . as can be reached by the voice of one address,” were the most disturbing of any in the brief history of the Colony. Because some knowledge of the revolution in Boston on April 18 is important to an understanding of the sermon, let us briefly review the circumstances.

    In October 1684, the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company was canceled after a contest carried on for several years at Westminster....

  8. IV An Exhortation to All 1714
    (pp. 141-176)

    The last decade of the seventeenth century belonged to the Mathers; Cotton gave three election sermons, and his father two. The first three sermons of the decade are political, with emphasis on the good ruler. The model in Cotton Mather’sServiceable Manin 1690 is Nehemiah. Mather lashes out at the Quakers and asks that the serviceable ruler set up a committee to encourage more missionary work with the Indians. In 1693, his father speaks of “the great blessing of primitive counsellors,” and Samuel Willard follows in 1694 with a survey of Renaissance-Puritan ideas on “the character of a good...

  9. V The People of New England 1730
    (pp. 177-220)

    The year 1730 was the centennial of the landing of theArbellabringing Governor John Winthrop and the first settlers to Boston harbor. The occasion called for a special tribute. The logical choice of preacher would have been Cotton Mather, foremost historian of New England and patriarch of one of the great families of the first hundred years. But Mather, who loved auspicious occasions, did not live quite long enough; he died in 1728. The choice fell to Thomas Prince, Harvard graduate of 1707, preacher, collector of New England manuscripts and books, European traveler, amateur scientist and historian known to...

  10. VI The Throne Established by Righteousness 1734
    (pp. 221-280)

    Although John Barnard’sThe Throne Established by Righteousnesswas preached only four years after Prince’sThe People of New England, they seem a century apart. The difference between the ideas and styles of these two sermons dramatizes the gradual shift that was taking place as the old Puritanism lost its monopoly on the New England mind.¹ There would continue to be references to the errand and the apostasy, but not again after 1730 would an election sermon in Massachusetts devote itself so passionately and exclusively to the motif; Prince’s sermon is the errand’s swan song; Barnard’s is the harbinger of...

  11. VII A Sermon 1754
    (pp. 281-320)

    Until 1734 there is a fairly even balance between the number of election sermons preached on the errand motif and political sermons on the nature of government and the good ruler. Between 1734 and 1754, however, the political type perfected by Pemberton and Barnard predominates. Although Edward Holyoke brushes aside the errand motif in 1736 when he says he will depart from those who have chosen “to discourse of the apostasy of this people of God and drop their tears over their immoralities,”¹ Israel Loring of Sudbury comes back the following May with the only complete errand sermon of these...

  12. VIII A Sermon 1770
    (pp. 321-346)

    The Boston massacre on March 5, 1770, killed four people. While the citizens awaited the outcome of a trial of the British soldiers who fired on the mob, Thomas Hutchinson learned he was to be the new Governor of Massachusetts and received instructions to move the General Court to Cambridge. As he looked into the future, “he had the prospect of a succession of uncommon difficulties, for a long time to come.”¹

    It soon became evident that the Boston Representatives did not want the new assembly to be held in Cambridge at Harvard College. Although on several earlier occasions the...

  13. IX Government Corrupted by Vice 1775
    (pp. 347-374)

    Between June 1770 and May 1775 the citizens of Boston lived through one crisis after another. The tensions which built up previous to the beginning of the Revolution—committees of correspondence, the Tea Party, the Coercive Acts and the closing of the port of Boston, the newspaper and pamphlet debates, the military occupation under Governor Gage, the First Continental Congress, the forming of the Provincial Congress, the training of minutemen and secret buildup of arms, Paul Revere and the call to fight—all have been described many times; there is no need to review the story here.

    If one could...

    (pp. 377-378)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 379-390)